Bangladesh is bestowed with a bounty of nature and immense beauty. Despite our country’s potential, our tourism sector has progressed at a snail’s pace.
At present, the total contribution of Bangladesh’s tourism industry to its GDP is 4.3%, while its contribution to employment generation is 3.8%.
Despite various, persistent hurdles, the tourism industry is believed to be on the right track in the here and now, with adequate government support.
The fact that tourism has been declared an industry and put in the list of thrust sectors speaks volumes to that end.
However, the Bangladesh tourism industry needs to be developed in a sustainable manner.
Sustainable tourism generally results in economic benefits, social benefits, along with benefits for the local community and, of course, the environment.
This year has already been designated by the UN as the “year of sustainability” -- in line with this motif, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has themed this World Tourism Day, today, around sustainable tourism and development.
In the context of sustainable tourism development, UNWTO has circulated the slogan “Travel, enjoy, and respect.”
Bangladesh needs to focus on developing its tourism industry in the context of meeting the SDGs, since SDGs 8, 12, and 14 are relevant to the development of tourism in a sustainable manner
This phrase has many connotations.
In this regard, UNWTO Secretary General Dr Taleb Rifai says: “Whenever you travel, wherever you travel, remember to respect nature, respect culture, and respect your host.”
A sustained effort
Bangladesh needs to focus on developing its tourism industry in the context of meeting SDGs, since SDGs 8, 12, and 14 are directly and indirectly relevant to the development of tourism in a sustainable manner.
For sustainable tourism, it is essential that Bangladesh follows the guidelines and codes of conduct set by UNWTO.
Creating awareness among the local community through community tourism development is an important issue.
The local communities within Bangladesh are not aware of the value of their culture and heritage, and the importance of conservation measures to protect them.
Here, local governments, along with tourism stakeholders, may take the initiative to further educate the local community to that end.
Some guidelines need to be developed so that tourism benefits can properly cascade down to local communities. Preservation and conservation of local culture and heritage should be accomplished with the active participation of the local community and environmental experts.
For the promotion of archaeology-based tourism, we need to make sure that the integrity of the site is retained.
The UNESCO manual should be referred to by site managers, tour operators, and other relevant service providers.
According to government data, there are more than 800 tourist attractions in Bangladesh, and the best way to market them is to focus on a few at a time.
This gives attractions which get too much traffic enough time to recuperate, in a manner of speaking. Simultaneously, we should diversify tourism products based on our natural and cultural attractions.
It is also necessary to prepare separate policy guidelines for the developmentof sustainable tourism.
To that end, coordination and collaboration among all the stake-holders are essential.
As Bangladesh is yet to appear as a popular tourist destination on the world tourism map, it has certain advantages to develop tourism in a sustainable manner from a nascent stage.
The benefits of sustainable tourism are always immeasurable, which can create great, positive, ripple effects in any given society. We need to emphasise attracting high-spending tourists rather than low-spending mass tourism.
The concept of high-value, low-volume tourism can be very effective towards promoting sustainable tourism development.
Md Ziaul Haque Howlader is head of PR, Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation.